Spaghetti alla Carbonara
First off, welcome to Anthony’s corner! I’ve always had a passion for Italian, Italian-American, Jersey/New York Italian cooking. Whatever you’d like to call it, who doesn’t love pasta and pizza?! Even if you aren’t Italian, you grew up eating this stuff with your family and friends. And for good reason, it’s not my opinion but a FACT that Italian cooking is the best in the world!
Hayley and I are set on making, remaking, and perfecting our recipes for you so that you can share these recipes with your friends, family and loved ones. Because why should you spend $30 bucks on a bowl of pasta that you can make even better in your home?! Enter: Pasta alla Carbonara. This dish is so simple it’ll take you thirty minutes from prep work to eating your fifth bowl.
The interesting part of Italian cooking and cooking most places in the world are that most cuisines are built in times of poverty and distress. Pasta Alla Carbonara is no exception. Legend has it that Pasta Alla Carbonara can trace its roots back to World War II. Italy was split in two: Allied soldiers in the South and German soldiers in the North. Rome was liberated by the Allied soldiers and food rations were distributed. Amongst those rations were eggs and bacon — normal, everyday Italians started using these ingredients to make what would become a Roman staple.
Carbonara is interesting because the “sauce” is made entirely of raw eggs and cheese. Carbonara gets its creamy consistency from the egg/cheese combination melting on the hot pasta just pulled from the strainer. For that reason, it is important you work efficiently when making this dish. I would have all the pots and pans ready to go in advance to make sure you can easily transfer the pasta.
Pasta alla Carbonara can change with your taste buds. I like the Roman version of everything which means sauces with a kick.
In my Carbonara, I add serrano peppers. You may choose to add something a little less spicy or no hot peppers at all.
There’s no option here for less garlic. I use enough garlic to keep everyone away from your stinky breath for a month.
You can also choose to add more cheese or less cheese depending on if you’d like a runny or thick sauce. I like my sauce a little looser — a sauce that if personified, could dance to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” without snapping a hammy.
The cheese should be Parmigiano-Reggiano. Why? Get a block of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a block of regular parmesan cheese and taste both. See what I mean?
You can use pancetta or guanciale. Guanciale is the authentic way to cook Carbonara, using the pork cheek. Pancetta is from the pork belly. I use pancetta in this recipe because it’s easier to find in most markets. If worst comes to worst, you can use American bacon.
We use fresh spaghetti, not dry. Our recipe for fresh pasta is coming soon; but until then, most Italian markets and some grocery stores have this. If you must (rolling my eyes), you can use dry spaghetti.
So let’s get to it, you’ll need:
1 pound of fresh spaghetti
2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1 serrano pepper
8 oz diced pancetta (I use the brand Citterio)
1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano
Pepper to taste
Boil 4 quarts of water in a large pot. Add a large amount of salt (at least a tablespoon). If using fresh, don’t put the pasta in until Step 4.
While the water is boiling, dice up the garlic and serrano pepper. You want them in tiny cubes. If the pancetta is not diced already, dice up the pancetta as well.
Grab a large mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs with the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese until it makes a thick consistency.
In a frying pan, add two tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot (but not smoking), add the pancetta. Let the pancetta cook for 3-4 minutes. It should start to look a little crispy on surface. Mix it around once or twice. Concurrently, once the pancetta looks crispy, add the spaghetti to the boiling water. The spaghetti should be cooked al dente so it is a little chewy, not mushy. Tasting the pasta every minute or so is the best method. Before draining, take ¼ cup of the pasta water and set aside. Fresh spaghetti usually takes 2-3 minutes. Drain the spaghetti; do not place under cold water. The heat of the spaghetti makes the sauce.
Once the pancetta is crispy, add the garlic and serrano peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir the pan constantly. Garlic will burn quickly if not stirred. Turn off the heat to the frying pan.
Pour the drained pasta in the large mixing bowl with the eggs and parmagiano-reggiano cheese. With a fork, mix vigorously for a minute or two. You should notice the eggs and parmagiano-reggiano cheese make a sauce that stick son the spaghetti.
Add the pancetta, garlic, serrano pepper mixture to the large mixing bowl. Stir vigorously for another 30 seconds.
The mixture may now look a little thick. Use the 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water and add a little at a time until the sauce is the consistency you like. I like mine a little runny and normally add the full ¼ cup.
Place the pasta with everything combined in a bowl.
Grind pepper on top of the bowl of pasta.
Eat, refill bowl, and repeat.